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Guacamelee! Review

Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
Developer: Drinkbox Studios
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita

There’s a style of game that we hoped was going to make more of a comeback after the release of Chair’s Shadow Complex. They’re games that incorporate a large-scale map view of the task ahead, showing the multiple routes possible and the areas you can't yet go. We like how they allow the player to explore and try things out, as well as plan ahead. They also give the player more of an indication why they're doing what they're doing: why that upgrade will be useful, why that key is essential. There's a joy to having that extra element above and beyond the core gameplay.

What's more there's a particular pleasure to be taken when you revisit the same area after you’ve obtained an ability that overcomes the previously impassable barrier: now you can triumphantly waltz through. This offers the player a great sense of growth. They start weak and incapable - they know that there are certain things they just aren’t equipped to do. Then gradually, they become able to accomplish things they never thought possible and feel great about their newfound power.

Guacamelee! Review
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Guacamelee! isn’t quite this type of game. It desperately wants to be, with attempts to add the necessary backtracking into the environment, but the path loops back around anyway, making it feel something of a cheat. Perhaps that’s a concession to modern game design and not wanting to waste the player’s time too much, but it ends up just making the world feel small. Still, there is plenty to like about this game.

Guacamelee! Review
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Guacamelee! puts you into the Lucha Libre mask of Juan, a newly dead agave farmer murdered by an evil skeleton intent on sacrificing Juan’s girlfriend to gain infinite power. Juan’s wrestling mask allows him to cross back into the world of the living and try to stop this travesty from occurring before it’s too late.

Guacamelee! Review
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For some reason, this also results in the walls being decorated with references to reddit image-macros and other weirdness transformed with a Mexican flavour. Your interest in this will directly inform your opinion of Guacamelee!’s humour - it’s as much a love letter to contemporary internet memes and classic 2D action-adventure games as it is an homage to Mexican culture so you’ll either love it, hate it or not get it at all. There’s a couple of good original jokes, but they’re overwhelmed by the callouts to a million other cultural references.